In the Telegraph, Tom Chivers asks: what would it take to change your mind? It’s a good question; I’m forever using it in imagined arguments with socialists. It’s good because it helps distinguish beliefs that are rational from those that are religious. If you can answer it without being facetious or coming up with an impossible and improbable test then your beliefs are rational. If not, they’re religious. It’s a question I ask myself from time to time, as in: what would convince me that freedom is wrong?
Chivers here is specifically referring to global warming – he is a warmist. I’m not: I think it is a pack of lies. But if I’m claiming to be rational I should at least have a go at answering it.
Before I do I should point out that it doesn’t matter that much. Global warming is only part of a much larger issue: CAGWIT (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming Inspired Tyranny). Warmists have to prove all of that. They can start by proving that tyranny works or even that a watered-down version of it works. I’m not holding my breath. Next they can prove that AGW is C. Haven’t heard too much on that front either.
But that still doesn’t quite answer the question. What would change my mind? On the AGW bit, that is.
In trying to answer it right from the start I hit a huge snag: I can’t rely on the authorities. You need only ask yourself what would happen if they turned around and said: “Terribly sorry, we’ve got it wrong, there’s nothing to worry about.” You can almost hear the sound of research grants drying up. Scientists are people too. They have families and cars and mortgages and titles and positions and they don’t want to give those things up. If they tell the world there’s a crisis the money keeps coming. If they don’t it doesn’t. They’re compromised.
However, I am still going to have to refer to some sort of authority. I do not have the ability to determine whether the planet is warming up or even if CO2 concentration is increasing. Or even if one begets the other and which way round. But if I am not prepared to believe the state-sponsored scientists who am I prepared to believe? The non-state sponsored ones? Or to remove the (mythical?) ones who are funded by big oil (just as dubious) – the non-sponsored ones. If Macintyre, Bishop Hill or Watts et al changed their minds I would be all ears. But having said that I am not entirely happy with relying on such a small number of people. And I’m getting very close to coming up with an unrealistic test. Has anyone out there got any better ideas?
One last point. I have to take issue with Chivers’s idea that taking advice from climate scientists is analogous to taking advice from a doctor (assuming, that is that anyone ever does take advice from their doctor). The reason I take issue is that the medical profession has a track record of both diagnosis and treatment. Climate science has to confine itself to diagnosis – treatment (should it prove necessary) is for economists. The problem is that even when it comes to diagnosis it has no track record – its theories are as contentious now as they were 40 years ago.